I was always very active and did all sorts of sports from a very young age. I spent most of my early childhood and youth playing competitively Volleyball in a sports club. Back then, cycling was more a means to move from A to B rather than an active sport I pursued. My commuting ranged from anything between 60-90 minutes each day, in snow, rain and sunshine, which provided me with year-round base training and bike handling skills that come in very handy now that I ride more competitively. I was 16 when I started working full-time which drastically reduced my time to train and attend Volleyball tournaments. After 5 years with my team, I had to find something more suitable that would fit in my increasingly busy schedule and settled for running, which I could do whenever I found a free slot. This was also about the time when spinning bikes came into being and my gym at the time introduced those really cool 90 minute spinning sessions held in a fairly darkened room playing trance and electronic music. Enjoying the party on the bike, I did a heck load of indoor spinning, complemented by daily bike commuting and trail running for the next few years. I never competed during this time. I was satisfied to work out simply to feel good and stay fit.
Hungry for an adventure I came to South Africa in 2006, to write my dissertation, work, and polish up my English, which back then was just good enough to order something to eat. During my first few months and without a car, I explored Cape Town’s soil by foot. It was a fascinating time experiencing something new every day. A couple of months later, I found an old mountain bike that I could borrow and started exploring the suburbs of Cape Town by bicycle. I took trips to Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and my favorite the Peninsula. It was probably on one of those rides that I fell in love with Cape Town and began contemplating to stay a bit longer.
I traveled a lot between South Africa and Germany the next two years, not sure for which country to settle. I completed my studies and was magnetically pulled back to Cape Town. Over the next two years I became more and more settled to the extent that I felt at home in a place away from home. I made friends, got myself a decent job to pay bills and studied part time for my masters with UCT. A few months later I met Pierre, who would become my husband 4 years later, and the decision to permanently live in Cape Town was a natural step.
The Beginning of Mountain Biking
It was Pierre who got me into competitive mountain biking. In 2009 he bought himself a Specialized Epic and joined some of the PPA races. I thought this was pretty cool, and bought myself a second-hand Scott hardtail for R4000. On one of our holiday trips to Wilderness, I got rid of the flat pedals and learned to use cleats instead, which obviously consisted of frequent dust bites and tons of blue marks for the first few times. During one of my first races, I fell so badly that my hand had to receive ten stitches. This was my baptism to mountain biking. Unimpressed of the little mishap I did more and more PPA races, where I quickly improved and even ended up on the podium. A year later I looked into getting a bike that was a bit more advanced, had proper brakes, functioning gears, less frequent tire problems and was not competing with my body weight. I bought a Kona Hei Hei, a full sus which also happened to be a 29er. Changing from the old Scott to the Kona was an incredible experience. I remember how I descended with the Kona for the first time and just rolled over everything without bouncing and and full control. I felt invincible on my new bike.
Over the years, cycling has become a central part of my life. It is no longer just a means to stay fit or get from A to B but has become a lifestyle that is intrinsically embedded in my daily routine. I often think about what it is that draws me so magically towards the sport and always end up with the same conclusion. It is simply an amazing feeling to be in the nature shredding trails, challenging one’s ability to push limits, and meet amazing people in the process.
I thought about how to turn my passion into a job, and eventually in 2015 made the decision together with Chris Chase, to set up a mountain bike touring business accompanied by a sport apparel import venture.
Four years have elapsed since and it’s interesting to see how things evolved and changed into new directions. My love for technical riding has shaped the structure of the business over the years and is now primarily focusing on skills coaching. Here our website if you want to see more www.breakawayrides.com
My quest for new adventures is rooted in an innate drive to explore and understand the world we are living in. I am constantly thinking of how I can experience something I haven’t before. Travelling from Cairo to Cape Town (12000 km), racing ‘nonstop’ 1100 km from Bloemfontein to Cape Town or riding into altitude to the top of Kilimanjaro are the kind of challenges I enjoy as it seems so impossible at first.
Follow me on my social media accounts @katjasteenkamp to stay updated on my recent activities.